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5.5: Documenting Your Source Material

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    28084

    Documenting Your Source Material

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    A reader interested in your subject wants not only to read what you wrote but also to be aware of the works that you used to create it. Readers may want to enter the discussion on your topic, using some of the same sources that you have. They also may want to examine your sources to see if you know your subject, if you missed anything, or if you offer anything new and interesting. Your sources may offer the reader additional insight on the subject being considered. It also demonstrates that you, as the author, are up-to-date on what is happening in the field or on the subject. In sum, giving credit where it is due contributes to research on your topic and enhances your credibility.

    Throughout the writing process, be scrupulous about documenting information taken from sources. Again, there are multiple reasons for doing so:

    • To give credit to others for their ideas
    • To allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired
    • To build your own reputation as a writer

    It is important to indicate the source both in your essay and in a bibliography, list of references, or Works Cited to prevent the possibility of plagiarism. If you follow the appropriate style guide (e.g., APA, Chicago Manual, and MLA), pay attention to detail, and clearly indicate your sources, then this approach to formatting and citation offers a proven way to demonstrate your respect for others and earn their respect in return.

    Citing Sources in Your Paper

    You need to cite all your information: if someone else wrote it, said it, drew it, demonstrated it, or otherwise expressed it, you need to cite it. The exception to this statement is common, widespread knowledge, but if you are ever in doubt, ask your professor or go ahead and document the material.

    If you are using MLA style, then your citation of the source in the body of the essay will point to the Works Cited page at the end.

    You must cite your sources as you use them, mentioning the author or title of the source by name if you summarize its ideas and giving the author or title of the source as well as the page number (if available) in parentheses if you paraphrase or directly quote the source.

    The reference to the author or title is like a signal to readers that information has been incorporated from a separate source. It also provides readers with the information they need to locate the source in the Works Cited at the end of your essay where they can find the complete reference.

    It is important to understand why, in MLA Style, the reference page is called "Works Cited." Every source referenced in the Works Cited page MUST also exist as a parenthetical citation (a citation in parenthesis), in the text of the paper.

    The parenthetical citation works as a short hand for pointing the reader to the source material located on the Works Cited Page. Therefore, the name or title that appears in a parenthetical citation must be alphabetically indexed in the source material found in the Works Cited page.

    For example, if you use (Wagoner 45) as a parenthetical reference, the reader should be able to locate "Wagoner" in the alphabetical list of references on the Works Cited page.

    If you are using the APA, Chicago, Turabian, Blue Book, or any of the other citation styles which exist in the different disciplines, make sure that you have access to the current guidelines for that citation style. There's no need to memorize the rules; they change frequently, and they are easy to look up. As the library video shows, many library databases and online tools create bibliographic/works cited entries for you. It's best, however, to double-check that citation against the rules--as we explain below.

    PastedImage_vl9w5smha8gg3vxvkvllkrj9stx5s0vf001312409755.pngZOTERO is an Open Educational Resource created by the Center for History and the New Media at George Mason University. It is a bibliographic management system that will auto-cite sources in the correct format, and build a perfectly formatted Works Cited/Bibliography for your paper automatically. It takes about 30 minutes to learn. Here is a set of step-by-step instructions for using it.

    Creating a List of References

    Each of the sources you cite in the body of your paper should appear in a list of references at the end of your paper. If you're using MLA style, then your Works Cited should list the sources alphabetically by last name, or by title if the author is not identified. While in-text citations provide the most basic information about the source, your Works Cited will include more complete publication details. There are a number of ways to learn how to properly cite your sources on your Works Cited:

    • An Online Writing Lab, such as Excelsior OWL
    • A current edition of The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
    • Online videos found by searching for "MLA style" on YouTube.

    One of the many advantages of using sources from databases is that the databases themselves, or the platforms which host them, usually include a citation of the source at the bottom of the HTML full text of the source or a "Cite" tool accessible from the record of the source in the list of search results.

    When using these automatically-generated citations, be sure to select and copy the citation in the style that you have been assigned to use. Also, be sure to review the citation that the database or platform has generated, as it may include some errors in it.

    An error that consistently occurs using a "Cite" tool is the capitalization of titles; in the United States, the first letters of the first and last words of titles are always capitalized, and so are the first letters of all words in-between except for articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and, but, or), and prepositions (at, by, for, in, of, on, etc.).

    The "Cite" tool does not distinguish between parts of speech when capitalizing words in titles, so you will need to change some letters in titles to lowercase in order to properly format your citations.

    Avoiding Plagiarism

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    Your research paper presents your thinking about a topic, supported and developed by other people's ideas and information. It is crucial to always distinguish between the two as you conduct research, as you plan your paper, and as you write. Failure to do so can lead to plagiarism.

    If you incorporate the words or ideas of a source into your own writing without giving full credit, then you are plagiarizing that source. In both professional and academic settings the penalties for plagiarism are severe.

    In the professional world, plagiarism may result in loss of credibility, diminishment in compensation, and even loss of employment, including future opportunities. That is, employees may be fired for plagiarism and do irreparable damage to their professional reputation. In a class, a student's plagiarism may result in a range of sanctions, from the loss of points on an assignment to a failing grade in the course to expulsion from college.

    The concepts and strategies discussed in this section connect to a larger issue: academic integrity. You maintain your integrity as a member of an academic community by representing your work and others' work honestly and by using other people's work only in legitimately accepted ways. It is a point of honor taken seriously in every academic discipline and career field. Even when cheating and plagiarism go undetected, they still result in a student's failure to learn necessary research and writing skills. In short, it is never worth the risk to plagiarize. For more information about Academic Integrity, consult your college's Student Handbook.

    Working with Sources Responsibly

    Disorganization and carelessness sometimes lead to plagiarism. For instance, writers may be unable to provide complete, accurate citations if they did not record bibliographical information. Writers may cut and paste passages from websites into their papers and later forget where the material came from. Writers who procrastinate may rush through drafts; this easily leads to sloppy paraphrasing and inaccurate quotations. Any of these actions can create the appearance of plagiarism and lead to negative consequences.

    Carefully organizing your time and notes is the best guard against these forms of plagiarism. As discussed above, you should maintain a detailed working bibliography and thorough notes throughout the research process. As you incorporate source material into your draft, check original sources again to clear up any uncertainties. Schedule plenty of time for writing your draft so there is no temptation to cut corners.

    Intentional and Accidental Plagiarism

    Plagiarism is the act of misrepresenting someone else's work as your own. Sometimes a writer plagiarizes work on purpose: for instance, by purchasing an essay from a website and submitting it as original course work. In other cases, a writer may commit accidental plagiarism due to carelessness, haste, or misunderstanding. To avoid unintentional plagiarism, follow these guidelines:

    • Understand what types of information must be cited.
    • Understand what constitutes fair use of a source.
    • Keep source materials and notes carefully organized.
    • Follow guidelines for summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting sources.

    When to Cite

    Whether it is quoted or paraphrased, any idea or fact taken from an outside source must be cited, in both the body of your paper and your list of references. The only exceptions are facts or general statements that are common knowledge. Common-knowledge facts or general statements are commonly supported by and found in multiple sources. For example, a writer would not need to cite the statement that most breads, pastas, and cereals are high in carbohydrates; this is well known and well documented. However, if a writer explained in detail the differences among the chemical structures of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, a citation would be necessary. When in doubt, cite (and ask your professors).

    Fair Use

    In recent years, issues related to the fair use of sources have been prevalent in popular culture. Recording artists, for example, may disagree about the extent to which one has the right to sample another's music.

    For academic purposes, however, the guidelines for fair use are reasonably straightforward.

    Writers may quote from or paraphrase material from previously published works without formally obtaining the copyright holder's permission.

    Fair use means that the writer legitimately uses brief excerpts from source material to support and develop his or her own ideas. For instance, a columnist may excerpt a few sentences from a novel when writing a book review. However, quoting or paraphrasing another's work at excessive length, to the extent that large sections of the writing are unoriginal, is not fair use.

    Jorge's Research Paper

    As he worked on his draft, Jorge was careful to cite his sources correctly and not to rely excessively on any one source. Occasionally, however, he caught himself quoting a source at great length. In those instances, he highlighted the paragraph in question so that he could go back to it later and revise. Read the example, along with Jorge's revision.

    Initial Use of Source Material

    Writing about why professors at his school (James Madison) worried when adminstrators moved toward joining the biggest football conference in the NCAA, Levinovitz argues that "there is no question that FBS programs are risky and that they’re correlated with disproportionately high levels of institutional athletics funding. (Statements to the contrary may reflect a conflict of interest, like when the company that produced your feasibility study is also retained to recruit your new head coach.) There’s also widespread concern about endorsing a financial scheme dependent on unpaid labor for its solvency . . . labor that may one day be declared illegal. And yes, longtime professors who saw their salaries frozen for five years are viscerally upset by a plan that suggests hiking student fees to fund a major investment in our football program" (Levinovitz 1).

    After reviewing the paragraph, Jorge realized that he had drifted into unoriginal writing. Most of the paragraph was taken verbatim from a single article. Although Jorge had enclosed the material in quotation marks, he knew it was not an appropriate way to use the research in his paper.

    Revised Use of Source Material

    In his article "Get Your Stadiums Out of Our Churches," opens in new window Alan Levinovitz tries to explain why he and other professors at James Madison University are not excited about the expansion of that school's football program. He believes that these programs cost too much and that the cost might never be recouped. He is also worried that assurances made about the return on investment might come from a source who isn't objective about the topic, and that the labor on the part of the athletes cannot go uncompensated forever. In the last sentence of this paragraph, he condenses a number of concerns about cost: "And yes, longtime professors who saw their salaries frozen for five years are viscerally upset by a plan that suggests hiking student fees to fund a major investment in our football program" (Levinovitz 1). In other words, Levinovitz sees students and professors paying for something not all of them may want for the campus. Further, adding to his frustration is that faculty pay has not risen recently. He makes it clear how upset he and his colleagues are that the school doesn't have money to pay its professors properly, but money enough to fund an athletics expansion. He connects the issue of the cost of the future expansion to issues of current deficits.

    As Jorge revised the paragraph, he realized he did not need to quote Levinovitz as much. Instead, he paraphrased and summarized more, making sure to explicate. He also made sure to include a topic sentence stating the main idea of the paragraph and a concluding sentence that transitioned to the next major topic in his essay.

    PastedImage_4297mnraq7axx74zp0ido74dc4noarg3001312409755.pngCiting other people's work appropriately is just as important in the workplace as it is in school. If you need to consult outside sources to research a document you are creating, follow the general guidelines already discussed, as well as any industry-specific citation guidelines. For more extensive use of others' work, for instance, requesting permission to link to another company or organization's website on your own employer's website, always follow your employer's established procedures.

    Exercise: Check Citations

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    It is important to understand why, in MLA Style, the reference page is called "Works Cited."

    Every source referenced in the Works Cited page MUST also exist as a parenthetical citation (a citation in parenthesis), in the text of the paper. The parenthetical citation works as a short hand for pointing the reader to the source material located on the Works Cited Page. Therefore, the name or title that appears in a parenthetical citation must be alphabetically indexed in the source material found on the Works Cited page.

    For example, if you use (Wagoner 45) as a parenthetical reference, the reader should be able to locate "Wagoner" in the list of references in the Works Cited page.

    With a draft copy of your research paper in hand, pair with a partner. As you read through their paper, check off each reference on their Works Cited page.

    • Are there references that are not cited?
    • Are there citations that are not referenced?

    Mark any discrepancies so that your partner can correct the draft.

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